As Eric Cohen noted in his piece ‘Flooded: An Auto-Ethnography of the 2011 Bangkok Flood‘ auto-ethnography is essentially a focus on the researcher and ‘his/ her position and involvement in the field’, whichever field that might be. My first attempt at this method involved the viewing of Gojira (1954), which I initially felt was an inherently flawed exercise due to my having already seen the film multiple times. I persisted nonetheless, and tried to distance myself from it and focus on details I hadn’t noticed before, tiny things like Japanese light-switches always being flicked up to activate and not down.
This first post was an attempt to distance myself from my previous experience with the film in order to create a fresher source of observations to analyse in the future (see: now). Yet at the same time, I didn’t want to appear totally clueless because that would be insincere so I instead filtered my remarks through a mental screen that asked ‘have I ever made this point?’ or just to play the Devil’s Advocate. For example, I noted that many shots are actually edited in a fast manner whereas others are as expected: slow and deliberate. As a self appointed guardian of Gojira’s reputation I staunchly rebuked the notion that the suit ‘looks fake’. Indeed, Godzilla buff James Rolfe, I argued, states that CG in the 2014 movie Godzilla is faker.
This is my ‘pattern of cultural experience’, as Ellis et al proposes. My previous experience with the film in an educational capacity,while holding a continued personal interest in afterwards, led me to produce observations that were at odds with those of a first viewing. As such, I tweeted obscure gifs of things like particularly bizarre shots from a later film, as well as one of Godzilla water-skiing in a Snicker’s ad. Moreover, as an admittedly easily amused young man, these goofy, irreverent episodes juxtaposed against the literal and metaphorical destruction of culture in Gojira proper amuses me in a ‘how far he’s come’ kind of way.
As an exercise, the structure of auto-ethnography as a tool to write about a particular experience and the impact of it is uniquely positioned to give the reader a deeper understanding of the writer’s thoughts and a invaluable glimpse into their perspective. For myself, the process of recording my initial thoughts and now revisiting them with a broader understanding of what auto-ethnography is has helped me better understand why I recorded what I did at the time and what motivated me to do so.
It is clear now, for example, that my remark of ‘it didn’t appear to be your average soulless ‘summer blockbuster’ film’ was preempted by my understanding of the film as a cultural touchstone that does mean more to people than would initially be believed. I wasn’t aware how much my previous viewing and studying would affect these kinds of statements, but returning to them it is clearly influenced by repeated viewing and not an merely innocuous off-cuff remark.
That concludes my auto-ethnographic deconstruction of my earlier, but not earliest, ruminations on Gojira (1954). Refreshments are at the back.